Americans spend billions of dollars every year on their animal companions. And that is just here in America. Of course that encompasses food, health care, grooming and other assorted odds and ends, but it is still an impressive number, dogs and cats being the mainstay of that figure. I’m as guilty as everyone else. I buy new toys that keep their minds working, a few new balls to throw when the old ones aren’t bright anymore and flying disks they race after in delight.
I think I might be wasting my money.
Every morning I have coffee in the yard with my girls. Now, it can be a relatively quick cup when it’s 10 below Fahrenheit, but still, I’m out there ….and they are not playing with the dozens of toys that litter my yard. They are not out there playing with me either. No, they are racing around in the new snow, dashing in and out of drifts to catch a mouthful, tapping each other in a drive- by game of tag or seeing who is the fastest in a race for the errant leaf that speeds by on the wind. If a few birds dart in and out of the feeders, they have to see if they can catch them on the wing. They spend a good bit of time doing the usual nosework, who was here, how long ago and did they leave any of those tasty ‘yard brownies’ or ‘bunny beans’. If a squirrel is bold enough to check the one of the feeders, that is a whole different ball of wax. That is the rest of the morning, at least for my girl Vision. She trees it and then takes her place, lying at attention well in sight of the squirrel scolding her from the branches, and locks on. Her eyes do not move from that gray fur ball. Sometimes she will tree one in the late afternoon and I have to physically take her collar to get her in the house as it starts to twilight, explaining that the squirrel would like to go home for the night.
And this light–hearted behavior is not limited to dogs. I’ve known cats that spend hours playing with a brown paper bag, horses that play keep-away with a weed and goats that spend hours trying to decide who is ‘king of the mountain’ with a stump. I have known crows to sneak up on my dogs while they are sleeping in the yard and grab a beakful of hair. My girls don’t care for that game by the way.
The irony of purchasing toys for animals that play with their natural world is noteworthy in the respect that we have to question who we are buying the toys for. I know I love buying those toys, but when all is said and done, the only thing they care about is being with me. The fact that I am in the yard, watching them play is really what they wanted to begin with.
And that doesn’t cost me anything but time.